Tory minister says next meaningful vote will be held 'when we achieve progress'

PUBLISHED: 12:54 21 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:05 21 February 2019

Andrea Leadsom in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Andrea Leadsom in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

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A government minister has said a meaningful vote will be held when "progress" is made - after there were suggestions MPs could have their Easter break cancelled.

The discussions followed claims that some civil servants have been told their leave is cancelled.

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said recesses are always “subject to the progress of business” when asked by Labour if the House will rise on April 4 and return on April 23.

With Brexit due to take place on March 29, doubts remain on whether parliament’s two-week break will go ahead.

Shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz said: “Could I ask the leader of the House if she could confirm that the House will rise on April 4 and return on April 23?

“I understand some civil servants have been told that their leave is cancelled during that time. Are there any plans to cancel recess?”

She thanked the staff of parliament and MPs for working during February recess after it was cancelled amid concern over a lack of Brexit progress.

Leadsom, in reply, said: “She asks about Easter recess and what I can say is we always announce recesses subject to the progress of business and that remains the case for the time being.”

Leadsom reiterated a second “meaningful vote” will be held once “we achieve the progress we need”, adding MPs will be updated on Brexit talks on February 26 and an amendable motion on the government’s strategy will be debated and voted upon on February 27.

She also told MPs: “Over 450 EU exit SIs (statutory instruments) have now been laid, which is over 75% of the total we anticipate being required by exit day.

“The sifting committee, which is looking at all the statutory instruments under the key power of the EU (Withdrawal) Act, has now considered over 190 SIs - recommending 52 of them for an upgrade to the affirmative procedure and what I can confirm to the House is there remains a relatively small number of SIs for the sifting committee to continue to review.

“I can also confirm to the House that the total number of statutory instruments will be less than 600.

“I will continue to update the House but I am confident that we have enough time to put in place all of the secondary legislation that we need to by the date of leaving the EU.”

On the negotiations, Leadsom added: “The prime minister is determined to negotiate legally-binding changes to the backstop to ensure that the requirements of this House in approving the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration can be met.

“She continues to do that and what I can say is I will, if necessary, make a further business statement but my statement is clear today that we will meet our commitment to deliver a debate on an amendable motion next week.”

Labour’s Liz McInnes said the needs of staff “must be taken into consideration” if a “PR stunt like cancelling recess is planned again”.

In response Leadsom agreed the government must “balance the needs of House staff and our parliament”, but said those she had spoken to were “incredibly supportive”.

She also said she “totally rejects” the claim cancelling recess was a PR stunt, listing a number of bills that were passed and debates that took place, adding: “I do not accept that this has been anything other than a valuable parliamentary week.”

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